The Dental Effects of Thumb Sucking

thumb suckingParents need not be concerned about how much their children suck their thumbs. This is a natural behavior. However, if a child continues to do it well after it’s appropriate for their age, that can be bad. Thumb sucking can have long-term dental ramifications.

Why Children Suck Their Thumbs

Babies suck their thumbs because it releases endorphins. The released neurotransmitters help children relax, much the same way holding a stuffed animal or blanket makes them feel safe. Aside from their thumbs, they may also suck other fingers, a pacifier, or a sippy cup.

The Problem with Prolonged Thumb Sucking

Unfortunately, too much thumb sucking can have long-term consequences. Children may develop thumb callouses or a speech impediment. From a dental standpoint, our endodontists warn that it may lead to abnormal teeth alignment and premature teeth eruption. It may also lead to palatal narrowing. This occurs when the roof of the mouth does not develop to full size. Other issues include an open bite and malocclusion.

How to Stop Your Child’s Thumb Sucking

Remember, thumb sucking is completely natural, so let your tyke continue to perform this reflexive action. Children usually stop on their own by the age of four. If they continue to put their thumbs in their mouths at this age, then slowly help them stop. Here’s how:

  • Award your child for not sucking their thumb. Small rewards include stickers or a fun activity.
  • Keep their hands busy, perhaps with an arts and craft project
  • Put mittens over their hands and tell them the mittens give them superhero powers

Youth Dental Development

Please bring your child to Mukilteo Dental Arts. Our family dentists can perform a checkup to ensure their teeth erupt normally. Our oral surgeons work with people of all ages. We suggest that parents carefully monitor their kids’ thumb sucking habits for healthy dental development.

Pediatric Dental Checkups

General family dentistry for Mukilteo, Everett, Lynnwood, Edmonds & Mill Creek